2018-08-29 / Editorials

The allure of college football

Other Voices
Mitch Clarke

It seems like it was just yesterday when I was sitting in the Rose Bowl — the ROSE BOWL, y’all! — with a knot in my stomach the size of a Buick. There were a lot of us Georgia fans there, and all of us were silently praying for a miracle.

First, Lorenzo Carter partially got his big hand on an Oklahoma punt, and then Sony Michel broke free into the endzone. Bedlam ensured.

I can safely say I’ve rewatched that Rose Bowl game a couple of dozen times. I suspect I’ll continue to watch it until the DVD wears out. It is, without question, the greatest game I’ve ever seen in person.

Games like this are why my buddy Kurtz and I started buying season tickets more than three decades, to see our team win big, meaningful games on a national stage, and now it was happening.

What we saw the next week — a loss to Alabama on the last play of the national championship game — wasn’t as much fun. But as I’ve said to many people since that rainy night in Atlanta, I’d rather lose on the last play of the national title game than win the Weedeater Bowl.

And now a new season awaits. I have long believed that waiting for football season as an adult is a lot like waiting for Christmas as a kid. It just won’t ever get here. And you’re always anxious to see what you are going to get.

But finally it has. I love the start of a new football season because of the great optimism it can bring. Everybody still has a shot at 12-0 and a national championship. There are a few sports writers who think my beloved Georgia Bulldogs will be in the title conversation.

There’s a fine line between being a fan and being a fanatic. I admit openly and without shame that I’ve crossed that line on occasion.

But I’m not alone. I’m not even the biggest or craziest Georgia fan. One guy paints a Bulldog on top of his bald head. Another dresses up in tights and a cape and calls himself “Superdawg.”

Yes, my house is full of Bulldog memorabilia. I’ve been known to bark at the games. I have a giant bulldog decal on the back window of my car. Milly, the liver and white Springer spaniel that lives at my house, was named for Milledge Avenue, which runs through the heart of the campus.

A lot of folks don’t understand the allure of college football. They don’t understand why my friends and I get to Athens at crack of dawn, hours before kickoff, for a day of tailgating. They don’t understand why we travel to such exotic locales as Starkville, Miss., or Columbia, S.C., to spend our fall weekend with the Dawgs.

A lot of folks think we’re crazy. And perhaps we are. But Saturday marks the start of another season in Athens, and I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be.

2017 was a magical year for Georgia fans. We invaded South Bend, the home office of college football, and beat Notre Dame. We took our years of frustration on Tennessee and Florida. We avenged our regular season loss to Auburn in the SEC Championship. And the Rose Bowl and the national title game.

A lot of my friends are wondering if 2018 can top any of that. I wonder it, too.

But I can’t wait to find out.

Mitch Clarke, a native of Blakely, is the editor of AccessWDUN. com in Gainesville. He can be contacted at mitch. clarke @gmail.com. Read previous columns at www.accesswdun.com/ blog/ mitch.

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